A whirlwind of conspiracy stretching across several states indicates a plot to alter elections and illegally obtain cannabis licenses in Nevada and other locations.
According to an indictment, which was unsealed for the public by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York on March 14, a Russian oligarch colluded with American officials to allegedly score a cannabis license illegally in Nevada. According to federal prosecutors, the actions amount to illegal political campaign contributions.
Andrey Muraviev—who happens to be a Russian oligarch—was charged with violating federal campaign finance laws in 2018. Muraviev is accused of illegally funneling donations to former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt—with the perk of winning an adult-use cannabis business license in Nevada. Laxalt has been accused of bribery before.
The news arrives at a time when businesses of all types are cutting ties with Russian oligarchs, albeit for a different reason, as the Ukraine conflict brews up.
Muraviev is charged with conspiring with Lev Parnas, Ukrainian-born Andrey Kukushkin and Igor Fruman and others—all of whom were convicted at trial or have pleaded guilty to related crimes.
The five are charged with concocting a plot to get $1 million from Muraviev, and then give donations to political campaigns to back-scratch political candidates who could in turn pull strings to help Muraviev and co-conspirators obtain licenses.
Miami Herald reports that the plot involved securing cannabis licenses in several states, but it ultimately fizzled out after Parnas and Fruman and two other associates failed to submit the required paperwork on time to obtain licenses in Nevada and elsewhere.
Muraviev gained wealth as the CEO of a Russian cement company and through his holdings in the Russian online payment company QIWI. He had already invested in several California-based cannabis operations before he connected with Parnas and Fruman.
Muraviev is believed to be in Russia and remains at large, prosecutors said.
Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the unsealing in a press release.
“As alleged, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian national, attempted to influence the 2018 elections by conspiring to push a million dollars of his foreign funds to candidates and campaigns,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said. “He attempted to corrupt our political system to advance his business interests. The Southern District of New York is committed to rooting out efforts by foreigners to interfere with our elections.”
The actions show that federal prosecutors will not tolerate illegal donations that are intended to alter elections.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll agreed, saying “as alleged, Muraviev, a Russian foreign national, made illegal political contributions and conspired with Parnas, Kukushkin and Fruman to obscure their true source. The money Muraviev injected into our political system, as alleged, was directed to politicians with views favorable to his business interests and those of his co-conspirators. As today’s action demonstrates, we will continue to aggressively pursue all those who seek to illegally affect our nation’s elections.”
The Nevada Independent reports that Parnas was found guilty last October on six counts related to funneling money into U.S. campaigns, and Laxalt testified at the trial, saying Parnas promised to hold a fundraiser that never took place.
Fruman pleaded guilty to illegal foreign campaign contributions in September last year.